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Marvellous was simply magnificent television



Marvellous ..... Toby Jones as Neil Baldwin, with the real-life Neil on set.

TV Watch with Dave O’Connell

Once in a blue moon, television unexpected throws up a rare gem of a drama – and the BBC Two managed that with Marvellous last week.

Quite simply, there will not be a better hour and a half of drama on the box this year.

Marvellous did many things because it was beautifully made, but most of all it actually achieved the impossible – it restored your faith in the world of professional football.

It told the true story of Neil Baldwin, a man who has what are commonly referred to as ‘learning difficulties’ who goes on to carve out a unique double role for him as an unpaid advisor to students at Keele University . . . and kit man for Stoke City FC.

It was the docu-drama style, the quality of the acting, but most of all, the stranger than fiction story that lifted the soul and produced 90 minutes of the most compulsive viewing you are ever likely to see.

Neil was played by acclaimed actor Toby Jones, but he also featured as himself, as though this was a series of flashbacks through his life.

And what a life – a man whose innocence shone through simply refused to see barriers and thus became a circus clown, inveigled his way into a lifelong role as a university mentor and then topped it off with his dream job at his beloved Stoke City.

Former Potters manager – and Manchester United and Scotland star of the past – Lou Macari also featured as himself but he was also portrayed with eerie accuracy by Tony Curran.

Macari gave Neil the role of kit-man after he found him waiting outside the club’s stadium all day. And it was Macari – who has famously described Neil as his best-ever signing – who made his dream come true by allowing him to come on as a substitute striker in a testimonial against Aston Villa.

If this sounds like the stuff of dreams – or indeed fantasy – then the story of Neil Baldwin is all of that.

And award-winning writer Peter Bowker joined with Julian Farino – best known as executive producer on the smash HBO hit Entourage – to do it every justice.

The wonder really is that they crammed it all into a documentary the length of a football match and yet it still captured all of the layers and drama of a wonderful man’s life story.

But he was also beautifully played by Toby Jones, who was equally convincing on the big screen in the recent past as Alfred Hitchcock.

He never overacted or resorted to cliché – and the dynamic between ‘Neil’ and his devoutly Christian, widowed, elderly mother, Mary (played by Gemma Jones) was wonderfully realistic.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.


Folk duo launch What Will Be Will Be



Niall Teague and Pádraic Joyce.

Folk duo Niall Teague and Pádraic Joyce are launching their new album What Will We Be, a  blend of folk, Americana and acoustic music, this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in An Taibhdhearc.

The success of their well-received 2020 release Taobh le Taobh, as well as recent successes at the Pan Celtic and Oireachtas Song Contests, spurred the duo on to record this new album which represents many years of collaboration and musical development.

It features Niall and Pádraic on vocals, harmonies, and acoustic guitars, Maidhc Ó hÉanaigh on double bass and Neil Fitzgibbon on fiddle. The catchy title track, What Will We Be, features contributions from percussionist Jim Higgins (The Stunning, Christy Moore, Paul Brady) and haunting, driving melodies on vocals, guitar, and fiddle.

Themes of love and hope are woven through Come Away with Me which features interplay between piano and fiddle as well as rich vocal harmonies.

People, places, and broken dreams are celebrated and lamented on Martin and Tom, Guitar Gold, Memories of You and Achill Island. The influence of David Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden features on the tracks Simple and Wise and Walden, with the beauty of nature, escape and simple pleasures at their core.

The album moves from minimalistic folk ballads such as Galway Ghost to swirling, string-laden arrangements on the song Neptune, both of which are influenced by maritime tales from Galway. Much of the work on this album was supported by the Arts Council, including work with musical arranger Eoin Corcoran and the string ensemble Treo.

The album will be launched this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in an Taibhdhearc. Tickets €22, plus booking fee at

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All roads lead to Dunmore as town tunes up County Fleadh



Most of the competitions for young musicians will take place this Saturday in Dunmore Community School. All the competitions are open to the public.

Dunmore is the place to be this weekend for lovers of traditional music, as the Galway County Fleadh will take place there from this Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 23.

It is 10 years since Dunmore last hosted a fleadh and the local Comhaltas branch, which has re-formed since Covid, is looking forward to facilitating this gathering of music, song, dance and craic.

The official Opening Concert will take place in Dunmore Town Hall this Friday at 8pm with the acclaimed Mulcahy family from Limerick. Mick, Louise and Michelle are well known throughout the country, thanks to their live performances, television appearances and numerous CDs. They were the winners of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Grúpa Ceoil Award for 2023.  Tickets for their concert can be purchased on the door and a great night of music is promised.

Two days of competitions will kick off this Saturday at the town’s Community School, with more than 1,500 competitors taking part. Participants will be hoping to qualify for the Connacht Fleadh 2023, which will be held in Ballina, County Mayo, from June 23 to July 2.

Competitions for those aged Under 10, Under 12 and Under 15 will be held in a large variety of instruments on Saturday, as well as in singing and Comhrá Gaeilge. Sunday’s competitions will be for the Under 18 and Over 18 ages groups, as well as in dancing.

On both days a large entry is expected for Grúpaí Cheoil and Céilí Band competitions across all age groups.

Seventeen Comhaltas branches from across Galway will have participants in this weekend’s competitions, which will result in a large number of visitors to the Dunmore area.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the competitions, which offer a great opportunity to hear and see the talent on display. There will be sessions in local pubs over the weekend as well and everybody is welcome to attend these.

For more information on the County Fleadh, go to


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Piano concert rescheduled for Tuesday



Pianist Cédric Pescia.

Music for Galway’s concert with renowned Swiss pianist Cédric Pescia which had been due to take place on April 27 but which had to be deferred, will now take place next Tuesday, May 23, at 8pm, in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall at the University of Galway.

This concert of German classics with Bach at its core, will brings the Bach element of Music for Galway’s 41st season to an end.

This world-class pianist who won the famous Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition, has a repertoire that spans many eras from baroque to contemporary and he is widely known for his elaborate programmes. Cédric Pescia describes music as  ‘language and movement at the same time’.

Audiences will have a chance to experience his soft, clear touch as he performs a programme for solo piano that will include classics such as Schumann’s popular Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), a suite of nine short pieces, and the penultimate of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, No. 31.  These pieces will be interspersed with French Suites by Bach.

■ Ticket for Cédric Pescia’s concert are available at, or by phone 091 705962 and on the door on the night. They cost €20/€18. The price for fulltime students of all ages is €6 while MfG Friends can avail of the friends’ rate of €16.

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